Smith’s to break ground

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Retail > Grocer waives final feasibility period

By Arin McKenna

It is official. The Trinity Site development, with its 100,000–120,000 square-foot Smith’s Marketplace anchor, is moving forward.

“We were informed by Smith’s/Kroger that on the 14th of June they had their capital committee meeting–this was kind of the final hurdle internally for them–and the project was approved by that committee,” Los Alamos County Administrator Harry Burgess said.

The official groundbreaking is set for 2 p.m. July 23. Smith’s originally announced a 1:30 p.m. start time, but has since modified that.

“It’s very exciting to see this project move from the due diligence phase of our lease agreement into the actual agreement itself,” Burgess said.

“It’s the next step that actually makes the agreement real, because up and until we’re through the due diligence phase, there was still the opportunity for the developer, Kroger, to withdraw. Once we progress past this phase, it initiates payments, obligations and other things that were all covered within the basic agreement.”

Council approved two additional extensions of the feasibility period on May 21 to give Smith’s time to resolve issues with the New Mexico Department of Transportation. Smith’s has requested a variance to allow for three entry/exit points along the property. According to NMDOT’s control manual, the intersections are too close together.

Smith’s has been working with county staff to address NMDOT’s questions and concerns, and the committee was apparently confident enough about the outcome to forego its final extension. Any request for the final 30-day feasibility period would have had to be submitted to the county by June 21.

“We’re just waiting for them (NMDOT) for final approval, but we anticipate that will be coming soon,” said Smith’s Vice President Public Affairs Marsha Gilford.

Smith’s already has a site plan approved by the Planning and Zoning Committee and has submitted its permit applications to the Community and Economic Development Department. Work is expected to begin prior to the official groundbreaking.

“For the next several weeks you’re going to see a lot of dirt moving around,” Gilford said. “It’s important now that we establish all the right structural kinds of things, which are not very exciting to people passing by, but are very important to the foundation of the store. So we’re going to be doing a lot of moving of dirt and anticipating structural needs.”

The builder/contractor anticipates vertical construction movement on the site will begin sometime in September.

“I’m excited that instead of extensions, extensions, extensions and pushing it back and pushing it back, it looks real encouraging that the Kroger Trinity development itself is going to move,” said Las Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation Executive Director Scott Randall.

The commencement of the development phase also means that Smith’s begins making payments to Los Alamos Public Schools and the county. Until the Smith’s Marketplace actually opens, payments are $10,000 a month, which will initially be paid from a $250,000 deposit. Once the Smith’s Marketplace opens its doors, rent will be $511,000 per year.

Smith’s is planning another event on the site before the groundbreaking. The retailer is sponsoring the Paula Nelson Band on July 19 as part of Gordon’s Summer Concert Series and plans to hold the event on the Trinity Site.

“We’re going to have fun that night. We’re going to talk a little bit about the store and have a couple of fun things for people who come that night,” Gilford said. “We’re just trying to think of some really fun stuff we can do over the next few months.”

“It’s a great opportunity for us to have a flagship store in the Kroger chain. It’s a great opportunity to show the world that we’re growing,” said county Economic Development Administrator Greg Fisher. “Kroger’s is making a great commitment. It shows that Los Alamos has growth potential, and it’s a multimillion dollar investment in our downtown area; all that bodes well for the future.”